Friday, September 24, 2010

"White girl"...

It is true that people in Freetown are friendly and you can easily strike up a pleasant conversation with someone while walking along. It is also true that while walking along the streets you will get comments left and right. There is a lot of “Hello, how are you?” or “Good afternoon.” It’s all pleasantries and part of being social but there are also the more annoying comments, and the comments that just get a little old. “White girl.” “Hey you.” “White woman.” “Apotto”. “I want to be your friend.” “Can I have your number?” And then there’s the hissing, which fortunately happens less than the commenting. Honestly, when it’s the children commenting it’s rather cute, but with the grown men it is annoying and when a women says “white woman” it’s just a little awkward. Still, all in all, it’s fascinating to walk, especially down town, although I suppose most of the time I am too focused on where I am stepping and making sure I don’t get hit by a car!

Rarely I’ll get the odd/rude comment. On Friday I was in the car with our new driver and we were ushered down a very busy road by the police. A street that both the driver and I have labeled as the street we hate the most in Freetown. Yes, that would be Sani Abacha street. Again, it’s fascinating but it is also very busy, with heavy traffic and literally hundreds of people selling along the sides of the street leaving little space at all for cars to pass. If in a car I am almost certain we’ll either hit someone or drive over someone’s possessions and if I am walking I am certain a car will hit me. It’s really not a very pleasant street. Anyway, we were driving along and of course the driver was doing the best he could to avoid the sellers who were well onto the road and couldn’t help but get close to people with the car. A lady (also well onto the road) yells at us saying the driver is driving badly because there is a white woman in the car. That annoyed both the driver and myself. First of all, he was not driving badly. Secondly why would a driver drive worse because I am white? We just kept driving but both of us thought the comment was ridiculous. Basically some people think that drivers of expats drive however they want to because the white are superior etc. as if white people do not respect anyone else on the road. Anyway it led to an interesting discussion between my driver and I about how Sierra Leoneans view white people.

Something else, that is also somewhat funny but also a bit bizarre is the number of people that will pull up and ask if you need a lift. I suppose I can’t blame the taxi drivers, that’s what they do, it’s their business. I had to laugh this afternoon when a driver called out to me: “Can I help you? I have a very nice taxi.” I said no thanks and continued the fifteen-minute walk to the flat. What is weird is when the private vehicles offer lifts. It just seems random. Do they really expect me to get in a private vehicle with a stranger? Then there are the expat drivers that stop and offer lifts. I guess in some cases, I would get in, like if it is another NGO, or VSO or someone I know (obviously). But occasionally you’ll get a white guy in a private vehicle offering a lift and then when you refuse (because he’s a stranger!) he is offended. Just because I am white and he is white does not mean I should hop in the car. Anyway, it just goes to show that most expats do not spend a lot of time walking around and people generally think you wouldn’t want to be walking, so offer a lift. They’re probably just being kind but they tend to forget that in the West you don’t get into cars with strangers. I’ll walk thank you.

So, for the most part traveling around town by car or on foot is quite entertaining, although the comments do get a bit annoying after awhile. All in all though, Freetown is a pleasant enough city to be out and about.

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~ Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. micah 6:8 ~